Spur of the Moment

An Unexpected Twist

This episode from season 5 is a favorite of mine. I love the story and the acting. I especially love the twist; for me it’s totally unexpected and I love to be surprised. It’s another story that touches the heart and leaves you searching your soul.

The moral of the story is strikingly clear: Think carefully about the important choices in life because we can’t reclaim our youth and correct them. Well, at least not in this episode. The message is a timely one for every younger generation: It pays to listen to the advice of your parents. Think carefully before making a rash decision.

The episode starts out in 1939 with a young Anne riding her horse when suddenly she is chased by a menacing woman also on horseback. She quickly heads for home, a beautiful mansion where her parents console her and her handsome fiance awaits.

Then 25 years later we see the older Anne who has chosen the wrong man for her husband. Her family’s fortune has been squandered and the once stately home lays in shambles, most of the furnishings gone. Now the twist. Instead of marrying the respectable investment banker that her parents approved of, she married the good for nothing, jobless, going nowhere scoundrel that momentarily caught her fancy. He lived down to his lack of potential by turning into a drunk who wasted everything that Anne inherited.

Again we see Anne galloping away on her horse, chasing the younger Anne. She desperately wants to warn the younger woman not to make that tragic mistake, but she will never catch her. Anne is doomed to haunt her younger self for the rest of her days.

A Flawed Character

Besides ignoring her parents’ advice about selecting a husband, Anne is a whiner. She blames her troubles on her father, saying he never forced her to make her own choices. You have to wonder if she had chosen the investment banker as her husband if she would have been any happier 25 years later. She probably wouldn’t have been facing bankruptcy and financial ruin, but I can see her still being unhappy, unfulfilled and wishing she had married the man of her dreams. “Why did my father force me into this unhappy marriage,” she would be moaning.

No one can see into the future and know for sure what the best choice for life will be, but the lesson here is to think carefully and weigh the options. Although we know that Anne’s life was a disaster 25 years later, I have to wonder if there any moments during that 25 years where she could have turned things around. She had to have realized after five, ten, or twenty years that things weren’t going so well. Her husband had to have shown his true colors soon enough that she could have booted him out the door and saved the family fortune. She still would have been an heiress and could have attracted another husband. But if she was drowning her sorrows in a bottle, she might have just continued shutting things out.

Diana Hyland One of the many reasons that this episode succeeds is due to the acting of Diana Hyland as Anne. She’s believable as both the 18-year-old debutante and as the 43-year-old haggardly shrew. I recently saw Diana Hyland in an episode of Alfred Hitchcock’s TV series where she played a young heiress and she was equally enchanting. Typecasting? Maybe, but she’s great in those roles and went on to a part in the TV soap opera, “Peyton Place.” She tragically died from breast cancer at the young age of 41.

Personal Identification

If there’s one episode that I can personally identify with, it’s “Spur of the Moment.”

As a young high school graduate, I decided to major in flute performance in college. I loved playing the flute and I was good at it. I made the All-State Band and the All-State Orchestra, so naturally I thought I was destined to be a flutist. I spent my college years acquiring a bachelor’s degree in flute performance with visions of playing in a symphony dancing in my head.

Four years later, reality reared its ugly head. Just how many orchestral positions did I think there were? Very few compared to the number of flutists who wanted them. And I didn’t even go to a top flight school like Juilliard. I went to a small midwestern university. All these years later my bachelor’s degree in flute performance qualified me to be a medical transcriptionist. A clerical worker. Something I held in disdain when I was in high school.

Oh, my situation isn’t as bad as Anne’s. I have a nice family and my home still has furniture. But instead of being a doctor, I spend my days listening to doctors attempt (and fail) to speak coherent English. I should have gone to medical school instead of learning to play the flute, but would I have listened to that advice back when I was 18? Like Anne, sadly, the answer is probably no. I don’t chase myself on horseback, but I do dream about changing my college major and becoming something much more marketable. However, it’s not in my nature to be fatalistic. Unlike Anne, I live in the internet age and there are so many possibilities even for people pushing 60!

Night Gallery Connection

There is an episode of “Night Gallery” called “The House” starring Joanna Pettet that reminds me very much of “Spur of the Moment.” A young woman, a psychiatric patient, is haunting herself. She drives a car up to a house, goes up to the door and rings the doorbell, then gets back in the car and drives away before the door is answered. It turns out she is in the house asleep and when the doorbell rings, she runs down to throw open the door, only to see a car driving away. Was Rod Serling recycling story ideas? If he did, it was worth it because I really enjoyed both of these episodes.

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